To better understand and support undergraduate student needs, the University Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz contacted Ithaka S+R to run the Undergraduate Student Survey on its campus. Under the leadership of Greg Careaga, Head of Assessment and Planning at the University Library, UCSC ran the survey in spring 2015, and also assisted Ithaka S+R in testing and piloting a new set of questions specifically designed to help academic libraries understand undergraduate perceptions and usage of library spaces and related services.[1]

The results provided the University Library’s Undergraduate Experience Team, which is led by Careaga and focuses on fostering undergraduate support and success, with many opportunities to share findings with other units on campus, communicate the role that the library can play in supporting undergraduate students, and collaborate on taking action on the findings:

  • The University Library is partnering with the University’s Learning Support Services office, which provides peer-based tutoring and study sessions designed to help students excel academically, to offer “train-the-trainer” sessions in which librarians train tutors in providing their tutees with additional assistance on research assignments and relevant library resources and support.
  • In partnership with the University’s Writing Program and Office of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Policy Studies, the University Library assessed locally developed online tutorials that support the development of students’ Information Literacy skills. These tutorials allowed the University Library to efficiently support students during their first experience of university-level research and also allowed the Library the flexibility to redeploy resources in support of strategic priorities.
  • Recognizing the importance of collaboration with campus stakeholders in improving student success, the University Library partnered with the University’s newly-created Student Success Division to host a program for library staff, which focused on campus and library initiatives to support student success and help students thrive as scholars and researchers.
  • The University Library has improved their outreach strategies at research fairs and student orientations, leading to a substantial increase in the number of students and parents who have been able to connect with the library to learn about its resources, services, and spaces.

The local survey results also provided the University Library with a number of useful findings related to student perceptions of safety and security when traveling to and from library locations. While students generally indicated feeling safe gaining access to campus libraries during the day, many students, especially women, indicated feeling less so at night. Furthermore, when results were stratified based on library location, Careaga and his colleagues found a notable difference in the perception of safety gaining access to one particular library.  Careaga and his colleagues shared these data with campus police, campus facilities, transportation and parking services, and student government, and advocated for improved lighting, bus schedules, and late night safety escort programs.

In conjunction with many other assessment activities, including home-grown surveys, observational studies, and interviews, the Ithaka S+R survey results have empowered the Undergraduate Experience Team to continue to build relationships with campus stakeholders to enhance research, teaching, and learning in the campus community.


[1] Greg Careaga, Frank Gravier, Ken Lyons, Laura McClanathan Meriwether, and Deborah A. Murphy, “Testing the Ithaka S+R Student Survey Role of the Library and Library Space Planning modules: The UC Santa Cruz Experience (paper presented at the 11th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services, 2016). Retrieved from: